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Spectators at this race witnessed perhaps the most spectacular catch-up ever to occur on a racetrack. Crisp was confidently dominating the game, running ahead and negotiating the fences effortlessly, in spite of carrying the highest amount of weight in the field. When Crisp reached the second to last fence he was leading by 20 lengths; there seemed no way in the world this horse would lose. However, the gruelling pace he set for himself caught up with Crisp before he reached the final fence; which would have been fine, had he not been followed by the iconic Red Rum. Red Rum, who would go on to win another two Grand Nationals, caught the leader of the pack and snuck past him on the home straight, winning his first of three Grand Nationals by a ¾ length.
Kauto Star and Denman, stable mates schooling with national hunt legend Paul Nicholls, delivered an unforgettable two part cliff hanger spanning two seasons of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. At the beginning of the battle of the titans, Kauto Star was the reigning champion of the Gold Cup, having won in 2007. The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup was surrounded by a buzz to rival the meeting of Arkle and Mill House in 1964; and Denman stepped up to the plate taking down king Kauto Star, who was home second, with seven lengths to spare. However, the anticipation of the 2008 Gold Cup was nothing compared to the rematch in 2009, when Denman and Kauto Star went head-to-head for a second Gold Cup win. Kauto Star gave an earth shattering performance, winning over runner-up Denman by an astonishing 13 lengths. In 2010, both champions were beaten by Imperial Commander.
This meeting is widely considered the 'Race of the Century'. It pitched Europe's Champion Three-Year-Old, Grundy, against Europe's Champion Four-Year-Old, Bustino, in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This race truly pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible on the racetrack. The pair went neck to neck at a ridiculous pace from the moment they shot from the gates. Although the elder thoroughbred, Bustino, travelled well, he was unable to rally in the face of his furiously sprinting opponent. Grundy won the race by ½ a length, pushing himself with seemingly otherworldly strength. Winner Grundy completed the 1 mile and 4 furlong race in 2 minutes and 26.98 seconds, shaving 2 ½ seconds of the previous track record; a record Grundy holds to this day. Bustino never competed in another race, Grundy made one more professional appearance after this outstanding show down.
When Mine That Bird took to the track in the 2009 Kentucky Derby the conditions were less than ideal. Overnight rain had left the ground soggy and Mine That Bird was not considered a hot ticket by a long shot. With odds of 50-1, Mine That Bird was runner with the third longest odds; and sure enough he had horrible trouble coming out of the gate. Only moments into the race, Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borrel were 8 lengths behind the rest of the field. Commentators did not even mention Mine That Bird. However, when Borrel position his mount on the rail and Mine That Bird found his feet, there seemed no stopping the pair. Catching up rapidly and powering past his opponents, mine that bird established a lead of 6 ¾ lengths within the final half-furlong. Mine That Bird ran the fastest quarter mile recorded in the Kentucky Derby since Secretariat's win in 1973; 23.77 seconds. In fact, Mine That Bird crossed the line so rapidly, that commentators did not have time to finish pronouncing his name before his victory was final.
The Grand National is the kind of race that will deliver crazy records and fantastic wins; it is perhaps the most dangerous steeplechase in the world and it was the notoriously difficult fences that made this wonderful win possible. Mon Mome, a 100-1 chance and only the second French-trained horse to make it to the top in the Grand National, running under first time Grand National jockey Liam Treadwell, simply bid his time until the leaders of the field had fallen. It was not until he had jumped the final fence that Mon Mome pulled away like a rocket, winning by at least six lengths. With enough skill and nerve to survive the scuffle of the jam-packed field and the staying power to end almost ten minutes of racing with an incredible sprint earned this runner and this race true legend status.
Staying power has never been as impressively demonstrated as in the meeting of Monksfield and Sea Pidgeon in the 1979 Champion Hurdle. Monksfield, who won the race in 1978, had returned to the track to prove he could pull off this amazing feat again, young Sea Pidgeon seemed intent on raining on his parade. Starting as the favourite, Monksfield ran a thoroughly brilliant race, keeping ahead of the field and flying over the hurdles with bird-like grace. However, Sea Pidgeon was never far behind and made his move to catch the leader at the second to last hurdle. The last hurdle presented the unforgettable image of Sea Pidgeon and Monksfield jumping the obstacle in perfect unison, like two horses held together by a harness. The home stretch saw the fiercest metre by metre battle for supremacy of all time. Monksfield seemed to falter for a while but rallied to give himself one final push, making it first across the line by a ¾ length.
Omaha and Quashed both entered the Ascot Gold Cup with painstakingly built reputations to defend. Omaha had won the 1935 English Triple Crown, Quashed had won the fillies' excellence event, the Epsom Oaks of 1936. Racing for the honour of fillies around the world, Quash put in a groundbreaking performance, stubbornly refusing to give a single inch of her lead. The final quarter mile of the race was nothing short of a centimetre by centimetre battle, as Omaha matched Quashed stride by stride. The pair crossed the line in seemingly perfect unison, causing one of the most meticulously scored photo finishes of all time. When it was determined that the filly Quashed had won the Gold Cup by a short head, it was clear that she would hold a prominent spot in the history of horse racing until the end of time.
The achievement of Secretariat during in 1973 Belmont Stakes was more or less the equine equivalent of breaking the sound barrier. The three-year-old, who would go on to win the 1973 US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, ran the 1 ½ miles of the Belmont Stakes in an astonishing 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a record which still stands today. The only thing to make this race more extraordinary would have been a home stretch show down, but Secretariat did not allow for such a thing. The colt finished first with an outrageous 31 lengths to spare, leaving the rest of the field baffled and far, far behind. Secretariat ran across the line with such speed that he did not come to a stop until 2 furlongs past the finish. Winning tickets from this event are still circulating, never having been cashed in, as sought-after memorabilia for the serious horse racing fan.
As both Arkle and Mill House were considered impossible to defeat, the anticipation and excitement to surround the Gold Cup that would finally see the meeting of these two steeplechasing giants was humungous. Luckily both horses seemed intent to deliver just the duel the spectators were hoping for. Mill House led by a slim advantage for most of the Gold Cup, with Arkle elegantly manoeuvring in his shadow under legendary jockey Pat Taaffe. The pair came belting down the hill to the last fence as a team, nose to nose and not about to give up. However, Taaffe steered Arkle over the last hurdle with the slightest of advantages, before allowing him to let it all hang out on the home stretch, pushing his infamous mount to a five lengths victory. Footage of the two champions descending the final hill remains one of the most riveting horse racing documents of our time. Singer/songwriter Dominic Behan immortalised the show down in his power-ballad 'Arkle'.
Mandarin's jockey Fred Winter saw any riders worst nightmare come true when Mandarin's bit crumbled to pieces in the early moments of the race. Left without any real means of controlling the powerful animal beneath him, Winter should have surrendered and pulled his mount off the track at the earliest opportunity. Instead, the pair pressed on, perhaps communicating telepathically and managed to keep up with the field. At the third-last fence of the event, Mandarin took a stumble, landing on one bent foreleg, but not even this disaster could stop this extraordinary horse. At 100 yards to go, Mandarin had a brief moment of uncontested leadership, before Lumino charged him and matched him step by step across the line. With a photo finish to stop a strong man's heart, it was determined that the iron-willed Mandarin had taken the victory by a head. This race was one of the most spirited demonstrations of true athletic ability by both horse and rider ever to be seen.